Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 513

Issue # 513                                                 Week ending Saturday 17th  August 2019

We Will Always Look for the Skye Light That Could Be At the End of the Tunnel by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Sometimes I see stories in certain newspapers and I think that’s a daft one they had left over from the beginning of April. Yet they pop up again, There have been quite a few of them recently. I thought exactly that when it was announced Boris Johnson was entering the race to be Prime Minister, when someone said that senior women politicians from all the parties should club together and be a government of fragrant national unity, and when Nigel Farage was also introduced at a meeting as potentially the next PM of the UK.

Then when I heard that a subsea tunnel was being considered to link Harris and Skye, I thought they should really not have left that yarn so long until May. Now it seems that experienced consultants from Norway have actually been speaking about the possibilities with our islands MP who asked if a tunnel was a goer. They have taken their pencils from behind their Scandinavian lugholes, scribbled on the back of a “pakke sigaretter” and said: “Yeah mate, we could do that.”

The big selling point for a tunnel project is the money it would save. No expensive ferry fares. No ferries waiting to be built in the Ferguson shipyard. No shipyards squabbling with the Scottish Government over escalating costs. No cancellations because of technical problems on the ancient tubs. No cancellations because of a hurricane coming across the Atlantic and no booking system telling you the ferry is full when it’s actually not. No more hanging around the Ullapool chip shop having a little fishy on a little dishy till the boat comes in.

The consultants told Angus Macneil MP a tunnel under the Minch could save the Scottish Government about £300 million over 60 years. It would be 25 to 35 miles long, depending on where the entry points would be. That is similar to the Channel Tunnel which is just over 31 miles long. More than 13,000 people helped build it and some of them were from the islands here. One told me it was very hard work but he loved it because the money was good. Contractors queued up to get work. When they did their sums, they put in bids of hundreds of millions of pounds to try and win the project.

One contractor offered to do it for just £50,000. The Minister for Tunnels asked how he could do it for that. “Well now, it’s loike this. Half my lads will start with the shovels in Folkestone and the other half will start in Calais. They will keep shovelling until they meet. That’s it.” The minister asked: “What if they miss each other and don’t meet?” The contractor smiled and said: “Even better for you - two tunnels.”

There are actually three. One for the trains to come this way, one for that way and an emergency rescue tunnel. A Harris to Skye road tunnel will probably only have two. One main tunnel with traffic coming to Harris from 6am to 8am. Then from 9am to 11am, the traffic would go the other way. It would take about half an hour to get through to the other side. We would need the emergency tunnel to rescue drivers who run out of fuel or who haven’t charged their cars enough. We will be all-electric by the time it opens. Dozy Hearachs will forget to plug in at night. We know what they’re like.

Ultimately, the Channel Tunnel project cost about £4.5 billion, which is a mere £12 billion in today’s readies. The consultants working with the isles MP have said a road tunnel linking Harris and Skye could deliver savings of up to £300 million over 60 years. Ah, you see the problem? Ours would just be a road tunnel though. Even with getting the boys to dig on Sundays without demanding double time, once they are past the two-mile limit of Free Presbyterian influence of course, do you think we can get the cost down enough? Maybe £1 billion?

Following their discussions with the MP, the consultants prepared a briefing suggesting a tunnel between Harris and Skye was the best option. They also examined a possible additional inter-island link between Harris and North Uist. Oh heck, how many more billions is that going to cost? We will all help in any way we can but some of us will need an overdraft. Much as I would like to help, my PPI refund is not going to cover it. It was unexpectedly big - but not that big. Have you all applied for yours by the way? No? Less than two weeks left. Do it. Now.

I hope this tunnel happens. It is dangerous work, however. Alex, one of the Stornoway lads who worked on the Channel Tunnel, had a bad accident. He was taken to hospital with a skull fracture.

His foreman asked him what happened. Alex replied: “I just shouted to John to throw me the hammer. That was it.” The foreman said: “You didn't catch the hammer?” Alex said: “I did catch it but we have three guys named John.”

Legal Bid to Stop Westminster Brexit Shut Down
A legal challenge to try and prevent Boris Johnson shutting down parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit is to get under way later.  The aim is to get the Court of Session in Edinburgh to rule that suspending parliament to make the UK leave the EU without a deal is "unlawful and unconstitutional".  The move is backed by more than 70 MPs and peers. They include Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and SNP MP Joanna Cherry.  The initial hearing to determine how the legal challenge will proceed is due to take place before Lord Doherty later.  A challenge brought by the same group of anti-Brexit politicians last year saw the European Court of Justice rule the UK can cancel Brexit without the permission of the other 27 EU members.  Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project, which is supporting the latest challenge, said: "A man with no mandate seeks to cancel Parliament for fear it will stop him inflicting on an unwilling public an outcome they did not vote for and do not want.  That's certainly not democracy and I expect our courts to say it's not the law."  The UK is currently due to leave the EU on 31 October, with the prime minister saying Brexit will definitely happen on that day regardless of whether or not a deal has been agreed with the EU.  Most MPs at Westminster are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, and there has been speculation that Mr Johnson could try to get around this by closing parliament in the run-up to 31 October.  This is known as proroguing, and would require the permission of the Queen. The group of pro-Remain politicians involved in the legal action at Scotland's highest court argue that shutting down parliament in this manner would be unlawful.  The Commons Speaker John Bercow has said the idea of the parliamentary session ending in order to force through a no-deal Brexit is "simply not going to happen" and that that was "so blindingly obvious it almost doesn't need to be stated".  One of the petitioners, Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray, said: "When Boris Johnson unveiled his vacuous slogan 'taking back control', voters weren't told that this could mean shutting down Parliament.  The prime minister's undemocratic proposal to hold Westminster in contempt simply can't go unchallenged."

Is Orkney 'In the Fast Lane' on Electric Vehicles?

Orkney is leading the charge on electric vehicles, with one of the highest uptakes in the UK. As BBC Scotland continues its season of special news coverage on the "climate emergency", we look at changes needed in transport and what could be learned from islanders.  The islands produce more power than they're able to consume, so diverting some of that into electric vehicles (EVs) seems an obvious move.  The likes of the Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe are a more frequent sight here than any other part of Scotland - you'll even see the odd Tesla. For newly qualified driver Charlotte Baird from Houton, EVs offer the environmental credentials that many young people seek.  But their hefty price tag can mean they are financially out of reach. Charlotte's petrol car cost her just £600.  On an EV test drive she said: "This is a lot more smooth and a lot less noisy.  "It will also help the local environment because there's no pollution.  When I get the money I'll come and get one. Maybe when I've been to college and I've got a few years under my belt."  You might think plug-in cars would best be suited to city driving where average journeys are just a few miles.  But despite being rural and remote the longest journey in Orkney from north to south is about 60 miles.  So the council can pack lots of charging infrastructure into a relatively small area.  Orkney now has well over 200 fully electric vehicles, more than 2% of the total cars and vans on the road. Most of them have been sold by Jonathan Porterfield, from his business Ecocars, based at home near Evie.  He believes interest is growing fast and says some customers even buy online, without a test drive.  "The demand has just gone off the scale in the last 12 to 18 months as more and more people realise that this is an option," he said.  People just want to get into an electric car, initially to save money but then for the feel-good factor of doing their little bit for the environment as well."  Orkney Islands Council claims to have one of the highest proportions of electric cars in the country.

Piping Live! Begins in Glasgow Ahead of World Championships
The 16th Piping Live! has begun in Glasgow ahead of the 2019 World Championships.  Musicians as young as 11 delivered one of the first performances of the festival on the steps of Buchanan Galleries on Monday.  Headlines acts include Dougie MacLean, Tryst, Dàimh and Lúnasa.  About 45,000 people from around the world are expected to watch more than 5,000 pipers perform at 150 events across the city.  Among players with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Novice Juvenile Pipe Band was 11-year-old tenor drummer Emily Gormley - the group's youngest member.  Michael Clark, Pipe Major of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Novice Juvenile Pipe Band, said: "We are thrilled to be playing at Piping Live! this year, our third year in a row.  The band work hard all year round, so it's a real honour to get this year's festival off to a start."  Players joined the Piping Live! Big Band which is led by Lord Provost Eva Bolander of Glasgow City Council this year.  The band is comprised of 143 pipers from all over the world including Canada and New Zealand.  Lord Provost Bolander performed Highland Cathedral in front of the city chambers on George Square, after a parade through the city centre.  The 2019 programme features international acts and will see the return of the Masters Solo, International Quartet and Pipe Idol competitions, as well as daily performances.  And the World Pipe Band Championships returns to Glasgow Green on Friday and Saturday, which was won by Northern Ireland's Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band  last year.  Festival director Roddy MacLeod said: "We are delighted to welcome so many pipers and musicians from all over the world to this year's Piping Live!.  This week we welcome tens of thousands of people from across the globe to Glasgow to enjoy the very best piping and traditional music in the world, as well as some fantastic family events. We really do have something for everyone and can't wait to welcome you all."

Nicola Sturgeon Invited to Join All-female Cabinet to ‘Halt No Deal Brexit'

Nicola Sturgeon has been invited to join 10 female politicians to form a cross-party "emergency cabinet" in a bid to stop a no deal Brexit.  The First Minister was among those invited to join the group by Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP in the House of Commons. Jo Swinson, the new Liberal Democrat leader, and SNP MP Kirsty Blackman were also on the list.  Ms Lucas said the all-women cabinet could "bring a different perspective" and its aim would be to force a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Boris Johnson.  The SNP leader said she welcomed any attempt to halt a no deal Brexit.  The Green MP used a column in The Guardian to claim that a national unity government would "press the pause button" and organise another referendum offering a choice between staying in the EU or the government's Brexit plan, whether that is an agreed deal or no deal.  "Why women? Because I believe women have shown they can bring a different perspective to crises, are able to reach out to those they disagree with and cooperate to find solutions," Lucas said.  "It was two women, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, who began the Peace People movement during the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland; it was two women, Christiana Figueres and Ségolène Royal, who were key to the signing of the Paris climate agreement; intractable problems have found the beginning of resolution thanks to the leadership of women."  Among the women Lucas has invited to join her are Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, Conservative MP Justine Greening, and Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts.  The First Minister said: “I welcome any attempt to halt a no deal Brexit, regardless of the composition of the cabinet.  I am clear that a no deal Brexit will be a disaster for Scotland which is why the UK Government must rule it out immediately. We continue with our preparations to protect against the threats from Brexit, but no amount of preparation or funding can completely mitigate all the impacts of leaving the European Union.”

Celebration of Gaelic Music and Culture At North Skye Fèis

In excess of 50 children took part in this year’s Fèis Thròndairnis, the annual celebration of traditional Gàidhlig music and culture which took place in north Skye.  This year’s tutors were Eoghan MacDonald, Graham MacKenzie, Allan MacLeod, Ian Ruari Finlayson, Andrew MacPherson, Murdo Cameron, Sileas Sinclair, Lilidh Campbell and Katie MacKenzie.  Attending this year were several younger children who were new to this Fèis, as well as children who have been participants for a few years; all were equally welcomed by the organisers and tutors.  Tuition was offered in Gàidhlig drama, Gàidhlig song, fiddle, accordion, keyboards/piano, clàrsach, guitar, chanter and piping, whistle, drumming, arts and crafts and shinty. Children from age 7 upwards took part.  Most of those taking part were from the north Skye schools but there were children visiting grandparents attending too. The main focus of the Fèis was to foster the area’s rich Gàidhlig language and culture. The traditional “tutors’ cèilidh” was held on the Tuesday evening with the children showcasing their skills at the final concert on Friday afternoon.  Bun-sgoil Stafainn, Staffin Community Hall and Columba 1400 were the venues for the various Fèis activities.  The glorious weather meant the dance sessions could be held outdoors.  Fèis Thròndairnis is well supported each year by an active local committee and by its parent body, Fèisean nan Gàidheal.

The West Highland Way is Even Harder to Negotiate

IT is the original and the best, Scotland’s ultimate long-distance hike. The 96-mile West Highland Way has always been a tough trek, even for seasoned walkers.  But now, thanks to wave after wave of alternating torrential rain and glorious sunshine, the path is almost impassable.  The Way is just one victim of an astonishing growth spurt that has turned Scotland even greener than usual – with some farmers saying their grass is growing faster than cows can eat it.  Some hikers on the lush and less populated eastern bank of Loch Lomond have decided to stray off The Way and follow the narrow lochside road instead, at least as far as it goes.  Impenetrable ferns, nettles and shrubs, fuelled by the warm, humid air, have bolted up along the sides of the path.  A spokesman for  Stirlingshire Council, one of the local authorities The Way passes through, explained: “The combination of warm weather and sporadic bursts of heavy rain witnessed this summer, and in previous years, is the perfect catalyst for the rapid growth of a range of weeds and excess foliage over a short period of time.  This is particularly true for areas close to water, such as river banks, and will be keenly felt in parts of the West Highland Way, which will go largely untouched for most of the year.”  It is up to landowners to maintain The Way, but walking enthusiasts admit it is far from easy to keep up with the kind of growth Scotland is experiencing as our summers, on average, become warmer and wetter thanks to climate change.  A Stirling Council spokesman added: “The West Highland Way is a core path, meaning responding to safety concerns on the route and responsibility for maintaining overgrown foliage resides with individual land owners.  The bulk of the West Highland Way crosses through private land and we would encourage anyone who has encountered problems on the route to raise this through either the relevant local authority, or the West Highland Way management group.  When areas of concern are highlighted to Stirling Council at the group or by the public, we will either contact the relevant landowners or undertake improvements.  Stirling Council’s Access Team is currently working in the Carbeth and Strathblane area to improve access there, and we continually monitor the growth of foliage across the council estate throughout the year.”  Stirlingshire has been hit by dramatic growth in recent weeks, including of giant hogweed, the invasive species now blighting riverbanks and railway lines across Scotland. The growth spurt, according to gardeners, has brought more weeds and more pests. Jackie McMaster, who is the gardening co-ordinator for the City Works course at Glasgow City College, helps run a roof garden.  She said: “This year the slugs are big enough to saddle up and ride around! Ferns are prolific and lots of stuff has bolted. Other produce is just starting to come now. Quite a weird year so far.” Last summer Scotland also had record high temperatures, but less rain and a poor harvest. There were concerns about scarcity of water right through the spring.  This year – so far – farmers are delighted. One, in Lothian, said the grass was growing faster than his cows could eat it.  A spokesman for the National Union of Farmers said: “The good weather this year has provided some blessed relief from ongoing Brexit worries.  In stark contrast to last year – when we had the extreme heat but no moisture – the combination of warm temperatures and plenty of rain have made for near ideal growing conditions in many parts of the country.  There is an abundance of grass for livestock, some high-quality stocks of silage and hay have been made and harvest has already started around the country, several days earlier than in 2018. There is tremendous potential for a good cereal harvest and a decent dry spell in the coming weeks will see combines rolling in most parts of Scotland.  And the weather has also been a win, win for our soft fruit growers – lots of sweet, tasty fruit and great demand for Scottish berries.”

Western Isles Council Calls for Roll Out of Goose Pilot Project

Following the announcement that the sale of resident Greylag Goose meat from Orkney will be available for sale Scotland-wide, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has called for a rapid roll-out of the pilot project to other island areas and has also urged Ministers to find a permanent solution that will facilitate the effective management of the Greylag Goose population alongside an active and thriving crofting sector.  Chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee, Cllr Donald Crichton, said: “The Comhairle has supported local goose management groups in the islands in the past, recognising the severe detrimental impact excessive numbers can have on crofting.  Sale of Goose meat out with the Islands has been argued for before and whist this is only a time limited relaxation of the rules, it shows that it is possible.  As funding for Goose Management is being run down it is imperative that appropriate management schemes are developed; access to a Scotland-wide market for wild goose meat is one way of helping secure a future sustainable balance between active crofting and Greylag Geese population.”

Belladrum 2020 is Already A Sell-out Success

Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2020 has already sold out all its adult, child and campervan tickets in the space of less than a week.  The award-wining event, held near Beauly, brings together well-known A-list bands alongside new and emerging artists, and is being held on July 30 to August 1 next summer – a week earlier that normal.  Organisers released tickets a month earlier than in previous years to allow a monthly payment plan to be extended to 11 months.  This was done to make the festival more affordable to revellers.  Organisers have held back 1,000 tickets which will be put on sale for die-hard aficionados of artists featured in its first headliner announcement, which Belladrum officials hope to make towards the end of the year.  Festival spokesman Dougie Brown said: “We deeply appreciate the enthusiasm shown for the festival by our family audience which comes off the back of our most successful edition of the festival yet, which happened only a week ago.  We have put the same number of tickets as in 2019 on sale including free kid’s tickets, and we have been delighted by how keen our audience is to come back again next year.”  Current adult ticket holders will be given preferential treatment with the initial allocation of child tickets being released to them first on a pre-sale link via Skiddle, and any unused tickets will be put on general resale shortly afterwards.  Glamping and Club Clan Bella tickets are also nearly sold out.  The festival has been brought forward a week in 2020, so it doesn’t clash with the Black Isle Show and Moy Game Fair, and the event will still run from Thursday to Saturday.  Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival is an all-ages event and the largest camping and outdoor festival in Scotland.  After more than 200 people were duped into buying fake tickets for both the festival and bar at this year’s event, organisers have urged anyone who might have missed out on the festival not to fall for offers from ticket scammers.  They have added the public should only buy tickets via Skiddle’s resale function when it goes on stream or via Twickets.

Student Recreates the Face of A Druid From Stornoway
The face of a woman believed to have been a Scottish druid has been recreated by a student from the University of Dundee.  The woman could have been more than 60 years old when she died during the Iron Age, some time between 55BC and AD400.  Nicknamed Hilda, she is thought to have lived near Stornoway.  She is thought to be of Celtic origin and her skull now resides in the Anatomy Collection at the University of Edinburgh.  The skull was first presented to the Phrenological Society of Edinburgh in 1833, described as one of the six "Druids of the Hebrides".  Experts believe her longevity suggests she could have come from a privileged background as the average life expectancy of women at the time was about 30. To capture the unique characteristics of Hilda, the original skull was scanned at the University of Dundee.  Karen Fleming, an art student at the university, then put some flesh on the bones. She said: "Hilda was a fascinating character to recreate. First I put the facial muscles on and then I had to build up the skin and that starts to build up the actual face.  There's measurement taken for the skull and the ears and if they have teeth you can measure for the lips.  It's clear from the skull she was toothless before she died, which isn't too surprising considering the diet of folk back then but it was impressive how long she lived."  Using the 3D replica, Karen then started to build up the face using wax, a process she described as painstaking, often having to battle the hot summer days to ensue Hilda did not melt. She added: "I've no idea where the name Hilda came from, she just looked like a Hilda.  I've heard of druids in the sense of people who follow it now. There are no reliable facts to prove that they even existed or the way that they were portrayed in classical literature."  The term druid was a common word in the ancient Celtic language, usually referring to someone who was an expert in magic or religion. It could have been used for someone who communicated with goddesses and gods, or someone who claimed to be able to predict the future.  The broad term makes it difficult for experts to prove what druids actually were.  Ronald Hutton, professor of history at Bristol University is a leading authority on druids. In his book 'The Druids: A History' he explores what people have though about ancient druids.  Dr Hutton said: "There would certainly have been druids in Scotland, for the very pedantic reason that the ancient Scots spoke a Celtic language. Because druid is the word in their language for a religious or magic specialist they must have had druids.  The problem is knowing what the word actually means in practice. Because there are a lot of Celtic languages spoken by a lot of Celtic people from the Iron Age, it can mean all sorts of things from somebody who's a blacksmith who dabbles in magic on the side... could have been a chieftainess or a member of an elite family"  Because the term is so broad, it is difficult to know what Hilda's role in society would have been.

Oil Starts Flowing From Huge North Sea Development
Oil has begun to flow from the biggest development project in the North Sea in a decade. More than 300 million barrels of heavy crude oil are expected to be recovered from the Mariner field, 95 miles east of Shetland.  Norwegian state-owned operator Equinor said the field was a "cornerstone" in its expansion into UK waters.  But environmental charity Friends of the Earth Scotland insisted the oil should be left in the ground.  The field was first discovered in 1981 but was taken over by Equinor, then Statoil, in 2007.  Low flow rates meant it was not economically profitable to recover the oil until technology advanced 25 years later.  Hedda Felin, senior vice president at Equinor, said: "The startup of the Mariner field marks a significant milestone for us as it's our first UK operatorship and Mariner is our cornerstone. So it contributes to our commitment to be a safe and reliable long-term energy partner for the UK.  We have a lot of new technologies to be applied on the field. We have been able to get much better data of the subsurface so we have been able to increase the recoverable volumes.  Carbon and climate are at the core of everything we do and we want to push the energy transition in the right way.  We believe there will be a need for both oil and gas and renewables. There are different opinions on how quick it will go but we will be part of that path."  Production drilling started in December 2016 and more than £6bn has been spent on the project over the past seven years.  This has created 800 construction jobs and a further 700 permanent posts.  At its peak, about 70,000 barrels of oil a day is expected to be produced.

Australian Actress Ningali Lawford-wolf Dies During Edinburgh Festival
The Australian actress Ningali Lawford-Wolf has died after falling ill while on tour with a production at the Edinburgh International Festival.  The 52-year-old, who had been performing in the show, The Secret River, died on Sunday.  She was a regular at the festival but was best known for acclaimed performances in films including Rabbit-Proof Fence. Sydney Theatre Company said they were "absolutely devastated" by the news. Two shows in Edinburgh were cancelled last week after Ms Lawford-Wolf fell ill before one of her cast mates stepped into her role as narrator for the remaining four performances.  In a statement Sydney Theatre Company paid tribute to the actress.  It read: "Ningali was an incredibly talented performer as well as a wonderfully caring and thoughtful person. We've lost one of Australian theatre's greatest treasures."  Ningali was a Wangkatjungka woman born under a tree at Christmas Creek Station in the far north Kimberley region of Western Australia. She trained as a dancer at the Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre, then continued to perform professionally with Bangarra Dance Theatre in Sydney to build a stage and screen career.

SNP Heavyweights Call for Stone of Destiny to Be Relocated From Edinburgh to Perth

A campaign to relocate the Stone of Destiny from Edinburgh to Perth has been backed by three senior SNP politicians who believe the relic who should be returned to its "ancestral home".  John Swinney, Pete Wishart and Roseanna Cunningham - who all represent Perthshire constituencies - have lent their support to a multi-million pound project which would see the Stone being taken from its current home in Edinburgh Castle and placed in a refurbished Perth City Hall.  The intervention comes as the Commissioners for the Safeguarding of the Regalia are now seeking public views regarding the future of the Stone. Heritage experts will consider between now and the end of September a bid from Perth and Kinross Council for the Stone to form the centrepiece of the town’s Edwardian town hall, which is to undergo a programme of extensive refurbishment, as well as a proposal for it to remain in the Capital.  Education secretary John Swinney, who represents Perthshire North, said: “I am grateful that the Commissioners are willing to consider the very compelling case for returning the Stone of Destiny to Perthshire.  The Stone of Destiny is widely regarded to have been quarried from Perthshire stone, and was used for the coronation of the Kings of Scotland at Scone for many years. It is therefore highly appropriate that the Stone should return to Perthshire.  The arguments for returning the Stone to Perthshire are not just historical, but also logistical. Perth is within 90 minutes travel time for over 70% of Scotland’s population, and is therefore ideally located to capitalise on the desire of both Scots and tourists to visit the Stone.  When the Stone was proposed to be moved from Westminster to Edinburgh Castle in 1996, I campaigned for its return to Perthshire. I am therefore delighted that a significant step has been taken towards achieving this goal, and I am sure that the entire region will get behind this campaign."  Pete Wishart, the MP for Perth and North Perthshire, said: “It is welcome news that consideration is now being given to the Stone of Destiny returning to its ancestral home at the heart of Scotland. I have long supported and championed the claim that Perthshire is the right location for this critically important historical artefact.  I will be submitting my own view to the consultation strongly in favour of Perthshire’s claim and would encourage those like-minded to do the same.” If the transfer is agreed, it would begin another chapter in the stone’s long and often turbulent history.  Its origins are obscure, but the relic was originally housed in the now demolished Scone Abbey until it was stolen as spoils of war by Edward I of England in 1296 as part of a concentrated effort to crush the medieval Scottish kingdom.  The stone - also known as Jacob’s Pillow - had a powerful ceremonial role in the crowning of ancient Scots kings. It was last used in the coronation of Alexander III in July 1249 before it was seized by an invading English army later in the century.  As a final insult, Edward had the stone installed beneath a specially-designed coronation chair for use of all future English monarchs.  The chair, which sits in Westminster Abbey, is still in use following the Act of Union in 1707 and was last used by Elizabeth II at her coronation in 1953.  Several nationalist-supporting students from Glasgow famously removed the stone from its London resting place on Christmas Day 1950 and returned it to Scotland.  Its theft prompted a national scandal and hundreds of police officers were deployed to find it.  The stone was eventually found on the high altar of Arbroath Abbey - draped in a saltire - in April 1951 and was returned to Westminster.  John Major’s Conservative government announced in July 1996 that the stone would be returned to Scotland where it would go on permanent display at Edinburgh Castle. There are several well-known theories that the stone in the capital is not the original used by Scots kings. One suggests the monks of Scone buried the real stone to protect it from the advancing English army, while another suggests a copy of the stone was made when it was brought back to Scotland in 1950.

Jo Swinson Daft for Rejecting Corbyn PM Bid
Nicola Sturgeon has branded Jo Swinson “daft” for ruling out a cross-party bid to temporarily install Jeremy Corbyn in Downing St in order to block a no-deal Brexit as she warned time was running out and called on MPs to get their act together.  The First Minister’s criticism came as the Liberal Democrat leader suggested veteran MPs Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman would be willing to lead a unity government at Westminster to stop Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal on October 31.  Opposition leaders are expected to meet before the end of the month ahead of the return of MPs from their summer break to plot a way forward to stop Boris Johnson from instigating a no-deal Brexit.  Last night, the Prime Minister took to Twitter to restate his position, saying: "The referendum result must be respected. We will leave the EU on October 31.”  Earlier, there was a deal of anger within Labour ranks after Ms Swinson rejected out of hand Mr Corbyn’s offer of collaboration to successfully pass a no-confidence vote in the Conservative Government, which would lead to a “strictly-limited” caretaker Labour administration, that would seek another extension from the EU and then call a snap general election.  Angela Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary, accused the Lib Dem leader, of “party political game-scoring,” insisting the Scot did not get to choose who the leader of the Labour Party was.  “Our leader is Jeremy Corbyn and she should respect his title as the official opposition. He’s got the support of his MPs and we are the biggest opposition party,” she said.  Ms Sturgeon suggested that putting Mr Corbyn in No 10 for a short period was "one way of potentially avoiding a no-deal Brexit" but noted it was not the only one; MPs passing a law to block a no-deal was another.  “The consequences and implications of a no-deal Brexit are so severe that we should be exploring all options and we shouldn't be ruling anything out," declared the FM.  She said she believed there was a Commons majority against a no-deal but noted: “What is less certain is whether that majority can get its act together…and agree an action plan. And time is running out."  Ms Sturgeon added: “Jo Swinson of the Liberals has said: 'Oh no, I wouldn't back the Jeremy Corbyn option.' That's daft, frankly, for somebody who professes to be so against Brexit."  But the Liberal Democrat leader maintained that it would be a “waste of time” to try to put forward Mr Corbyn as the head of an emergency government to stop a no-deal Brexit because he was such a divisive figure, who could not attract the necessary Tory rebels to bring down Mr Johnson’s government in a Commons vote.

Runrig Frontman Says Film of Final Concerts Will Wow Fans

“For me it will be the first time seeing it, which makes me a little nervous,” admits Runrig’s lead singer Bruce Guthro.  He’s just touched down in Glasgow from Canada ahead of the band’s movie premiere at the Royal Concert Hall on Saturday.  Incredibly, it’s a year since Runrig completed their Final Mile tour with The Last Dance gigs in front of 50,000 fans over two days in the shadow of Stirling Castle. The fact he is here, shows just what it still means to him.  “We’re very proud of this, no stone has been left unturned to put this package together as it should be, as a tribute to the fans and, to a degree, to our legacy. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed if they are a Runrig fan.  In some ways we’re all fans of each other so it will be fun to sit there and watch it. If the film represents the days, which I believe it will, then there’s not a bad memory.”  The grass beneath Stirling Castle was turned into a sea of tartan, Saltires and Runrig T-shirts from through the ages when fans and band members alike shed tears in the rain, for the end of a 45-year legacy – of which he pushed them forward for almost half.  “This my first time back since then,” he says: “I’m excited to see everybody – the band and crew. I was as tight with some of the crew as I was with some of the band, I really liked and admired and respect the work that they did.  I probably haven’t had the shock of ‘Oh my God, we’re done’ yet,” he admits. “I’ve been busy with life. To a degree the band are the same because they have been busy with this project. But I think it will be harder for some in the band, because it was their life. For me it was 20-year journey, for some it was 45 years. We all agree it was the right time.”  It will be a strange sensation for Guthro and his fellow, now ex-band mates. A room full of fans watching their last show together in a three-hour long, high definition epic captured by Bafta award-winning digital entertainment company Blazing Griffin, from Glasgow.  From their very first ceilidh dance in 1973 to playing to so many thousands of fans over a wet weekend in Stirling a year ago, Calum MacDonald always wondered what it would be like. How it must feel to dance, to sing, to cheer. This Saturday, get gets his chance.  “We’ve often talked about how good it would be to go to a Runrig concert and experience the thing, it’s always been an aspiration, and this as close as we’re going to get to doing it,” he says, “I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be a very unusual event.”  He’s not wrong. The Last Dance screening at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall will play to an audience ready to relive the experience of Runrig’s final gigs and, as a founding member, he is looking forward to the experience as much as the next fan.  He knows fans may go through the emotional wringer again, but he hopes for the right reasons. “I’d ask them enjoy this again. I hope what we’ve done, not just here but for 45 years, has meant something to them.”